Singapore will allow companies to resume business operations gradually from May 12 while maintaining a partial lockdown until June 1 to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

"We are asking the various companies to put in place the various measures and they will start to prepare now...As soon as they are ready by 12 May, they can resume work," Minister of Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing said at a virtual press conference on Sunday.

(A general view of an empty arrival hall at Changi Airport Terminal 2 on April 30, 2020 in Singapore.)[Getty/Kyodo]

Singapore imposed a monthlong partial lockdown which it called a "Circuit Breaker" on April 7 and it has since been extended by another four weeks until June 1.

Chan said the reopening of the economy will be gradual and progressive with some sectors given priority in resuming operations. "There is a phased plan whereby different sectors will progressively be able to restart their operations once they put in place" the necessary safety measures.

"We will not be able to open some of the social entertainment outlets, but we are focused on our manufacturing capacities and production capabilities," he said.

For example, priority will be given to sectors that are closely linked with global supply chains in fields such as biopharma, petrochemicals and precision manufacturing. Many of these sectors have been allowed to maintain a certain level of operations even during the partial lockdown.

The move to ease restrictions on business operations comes amid signs that community transmissions in Singapore are tapering off even though infections mostly in dormitories inhabited by migrant workers have pushed overall cases in the city-state to the highest level in Southeast Asia.

The number of coronavirus cases in Singapore stood at 18,205 as of Sunday. The number of fatalities has remained one of the lowest in the world at 18.

After resuming businesses, companies are expected to implement strict social distancing and ensure that their employees do not mingle with each other even after work, Chan said.

He added that the government hopes to see companies allow their workers to continue to work from home wherever possible.